Kindergarten, Mrs. Corbett and What a Little Birdie Taught Me  . . .

Can you go back in time to Kindergarten?  Can you go there in your mind and remember any significant moments about it?  I actually do have some doozies!  My first memory being a thought at recess as I looked down at a pile of pebbles and thought, “Why am I wasting my time here at this school?  I need to make money and free my Mom and Dad from having to go to work every day, I need to sell a million pebbles for $1 each and our family will be free to do whatever we want!”  Ah yes, my first entrepreneurial thought, but that one’s for another blog . . .

By the time I got to Kindergarten I had a new found confidence in myself.  I had 2 years of nursery school behind me and the trauma of not being able to speak English was a distant memory!  Yup, my parents only spoke German to me until I was 4 and then they slowly introduced English.  I went from being shy and introverted to feeling quite comfortable with making my own group of friends and getting chummy with my Kindergarten Teacher.  The beautiful and talented, Mrs. Corbett.

That year, after March Break, Mrs. Corbett came back from a relaxing vacation in the Bahamas.  Her skin was golden brown, her hair even more white blonde and curled in perfect locks.  I couldn’t stop looking at the pretty pink frosted lipstick that matched the colour on her nails.  She was perfect.  She told us that if we were quiet during our rest time she had a very special story about the Bahamas to tell us later that afternoon.

We were all enamoured with Mrs. Corbett.  She had the elegance and grace of a fairy godmother.  We followed her direction and no one made a peep during our rest time.

That afternoon we all gathered in a circle around Mrs. Corbett as she sat on a tiny chair and asked if any of us had ever heard of the Bahamas?  One or two kids raised their hands.  None of us had been somewhere so exotic, come on, we were all barely 5 years old and this was 1974.  Most of us had hard working immigrant parents and even if they were going to places like Bahamas, they sure as heck weren’t taking their five year olds with them.

Mrs. Corbett shared all of the details with us.  She pulled out giant conch shells which we passed around and held to our little ears.  We could hear the gentle sound of ocean waves.  We passed around a prickly piece of coral that left a salty residue on our hands.  Then came a big sponge, it looked like something you would do dishes with, but we learned that it too was a living creature that came from the ocean.

As we were all admiring these ocean treasures Mrs. Corbett placed the most beautiful hat on her head.  It was so stunning that all of our chitter chatter stopped.  All we could do was stare at our fairy godmother.  Our eyes got wider and our little jaws dropped to the floor.

The hat was made from straw and it had a beautiful wide brim that Mrs. Corbett positioned on a gentle angle.  All along the inside brim were turquoise, pink and green flowers, also made from straw.  Then the most magical part of all.  Three intricately woven straw yellow birds, hanging from the hat in all the right places.  WOW! We Kindergarten kids were awestruck.

Mrs. Corbett stood up from the tiny chair, stepped over to the piano, sat with perfect posture and started to play and sing.  Oh gosh, I still get just as excited today when I hear this song.  A song that went perfectly with the hat.  That afternoon Mrs. Corbett taught us “Yellow Bird.”

This was a life changing moment for me.  I was late walking home from school that day (just to interject here, with a couple of fast fact reminders.  Five years old and I walked to and from school by myself until I caught up with friends – good old 1974)

My Mom was getting a little worried because I was running about five minutes behind.  She grabbed her coat, bundled up my brother and they both came out to look for me.  There I was walking in the ditch, as I always did, because I was afraid of cars, but this time my pace was a little slower.  I had found a branch that worked perfectly as a conducting baton to keep time as I hollered “Yelllllloooooww Bird up high in banana tree, yelllllloooooow bird you sit all alone like me . . .” from the top of my lungs.

My Mom was giggling when she saw me.  She scooped me up in her arms and said, “Wow Moni!  I can’t wait to hear all about your day at school.”  I’m not even sure how I explained the wonders of that day to my Mom and Dad over dinner.  The one thing I do remember is that they listened.  We had the record, and they put it on for me!

Monica XO

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Absolutely lovely…your memory allowed me to recall my “Mrs. Allerston”, although my memory goes back to 1963! It is easy to see where your love for joy and presence come from. And what great parents to listen so dearly.


The joy of storytelling:
learning to truly listen,
learning we will be listened to.
The earlier we learn this joy, the more powerful writers/architects – of words/lives – we become.


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